Thursday, September 1, 2011

News 9.1.2011

Copyright (c) 2011 Radio Prague (Cesky Rozhlas 7 - Radio Praha)

News Thursday, September 1st, 2011

By: Jan Richter

* The new school year started on Thursday, with 1.2 million children
going back to school.

* The lower house of Parliament is debating the government's social and
welfare reform.

* The deficit of Czech public finances in August grew slightly higher
than expected.

* The Czech Republic will provide 350 troops for the EU battle groups
next year, according to the Czech chief of general staff.

* The Greek prime minister has slammed Czech President Vaclav Klaus
over his "ouzo drinkers" comments.

New school year starts

The new school year started on Thursday, with 1.2 million children
going back to school. Czech President Vaclav Klaus welcomed students at
a secondary school in Ostrava, which is run by his son, Vaclav Klaus
Jr., while Education Minister Josef Dobes marked the start of the
school year at an elementary school in the Prague district of Zizkov.
Mr Klaus noted that unlike Czech universities and secondary schools,
the country's elementary school system is doing well in comparison with
schools abroad. The school year 2011-2012 brings several changes,
including a trial run of contracts between schools and parents to help
alleviate increasing problems with misbehaved children.

MPs debate social and welfare reform

The lower house of Parliament on Thursday is debating several bills as
part of the government's social and welfare reform. If passed and
signed into law, they will introduce a number of changes to the welfare
system; for instance, social and unemployment benefits will no longer
be given out by municipalities but rather by labour offices. Under
public pressure however, the government has scrapped plans to introduce
compulsory "social cards" for people to take out pensions and benefits
from ATMs. The reform also introduces harsher penalties for abusing
social welfare. The centre-right coalition is expected to push the
reform bills, strongly opposed by the Social Democrats and Communists,
through the lower house next week.

Public finances deficit growth in August higher than expected

The deficit of Czech public finances in August reached 87.3 billion
crowns, up from 61.1 billion in July, the Czech Finance Ministry said
on Thursday. While revenues dropped by 3.8 billion year-on-year,
expenditures rose annually by 4.8 billion crowns. Analysts said the
increase was slightly higher than expected. The government approved an
overall budget deficit for this year of 135 billion crowns, or 3.6
percent of the country's gross domestic product.

Czech army to provide 350 soldiers for EU battle groups

The Czech Republic will next year provide 350 troops for the European
Union's battle groups, the Czech chief of general staff Vlastimil Picek
said after meeting with the chairman of the EU military committee Hakan
Syren in Prague on Thursday. The Czech army will provide a mechanized
company complete with logistics support, Mr Picek said. The EU's
military contingent will consist of 2,800 soldiers from six countries
including Germany, Austria, Croatia, Macedonia and Ireland; it will be
deployed on humanitarian, peace-keeping and reconstruction missions.

Czech army to fight flab

The Czech army is to undergo an intensive weight reduction programme
that has nothing to do with the Defence Ministry's cost-cutting
measures, the daily Lidove Noviny reports. Medical check-ups have
revealed that around half of Czech soldiers are overweight and one in
seven is obese. The army has acquired weight-loss pills to the tune of
one million crowns and will put overweight soldiers on a strict diet.
The weight loss reduction programme should affect around 11,000
soldiers and the results are to be assessed in six months time.

Greek PM berates Czech presidents over "ouzo drinkers" comments

Greek Prime Minister Georgios Papandreu berated on Thursday Czech
President Vaclav Klaus over his recent comments about lazy ouzo
drinkers. Mr Klaus told the Czech daily Pravo on Saturday it was
absolutely fine if Greeks choose to spend more hours drinking ouzo
under cypress trees; in that case, however they cannot form a monetary
union with Germany, the Czech president added. The Czech news agency
quoted the Greek prime minister as saying that Mr Klaus expressed his
populist anti-Europeanism by offending Greeks. Should Europe not
overcome such views, Mr Papandreu said, it will once again suffer
fragmentation and its people will lose the achievements reached in the
last 60 years.

Hundreds protest controversial Education Ministry employee

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Czech Education Ministry in
Prague on Thursday to demand the sacking of Ladislav Batora, a
controversial right wing figure who now serves as the minister's deputy
chief of staff. Mr Batora, who has been accused of promoting right-wing
extremism, was at the core of a recent government crisis. Ministers for
the coalition TOP 09 party refused to take part in the government's
sessions if Mr Batora stays in his position of the Education Ministry's
human resources boss. Minister Josef Dobes eventually gave in but
appointed Mr Batora in a new position.

Number of Czech eco farms exceeds 4,000: ministry

The number of Czech eco farms in August reached 4,022, up by more than
500 since the beginning of the year, according to figures released by
the Agriculture Ministry on Thursday. Last year, the number of organic
farms grew by one third. Farmers observing the principles of organic
farming worked the total area of over 480,000 hectares. At the same
time, the country's market with organic food grew slightly last year to
around two billion crowns.

Opera singer Magdalena Kozena cancels concert over health problems

Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozena cancelled on Thursday all her
concerts and appearances in September over health problems, her manager
David Dittrich told reporters on Thursday. Mr Dittrich said the
problems were not serious and were not related to her vocal cords. The
38-year-old Berlin-based opera singer was scheduled to appear at
concerts in Switzerland and the city of Brno.

High jumper Baba finishes fourth at world championships in South Korea

Czech high jumper Jaroslav Baba finished fourth at the world athletics
championships in Daegu, South Korea, on Thursday. The Czech athlete
jumped 232 cm, but failed at 235 cm, one centimetre below his personal
best. In other events, Czech javelin throwers Barbora Spotakova and
Jarmila Klimesova on Thursday secured spots in women's final on Friday,
while shot putter Jan Marcell failed to qualify for the final.


The end of the week will by mostly sunny and warm, with daytime highs
of around 24 degrees Celsius.

Articles posted on today

A hijacker's memoir: what happens when three teenagers hijack a plane
over bad school marks

Fifty years ago today, three boys aged 14 and 15, boarded a regular
flight between Prague and Brno. But they had another destination in
mind - Munich, in West Germany. With no airport security, one of them
had a handgun he had taken from his grandfather, and after some 10
minutes in air, they entered the cockpit and began to act. But the plan
went terribly wrong, and they all spent many years in prison. One of
them, 65-year-old Michael Prochazka, recently put out a book,
Confessions of a Plane Hijacker, which recounts the whole story up to
his departure to Australia in 1969, where he spent the next 30 years of
his life.

Coalition at odds over state secretary for EU affairs

A proposal to establish a state secretary for EU affairs, approved by
the Czech cabinet on Wednesday, has divided the ruling coalition. While
the proposal was pushed through by the Civic Democratic Party and
Public Affairs the third party in government, TOP09, remains strongly
opposed to the move which it claims to be in violation of the coalition
agreement. The party, which holds the foreign ministry, fears the new
post will detract from its powers and has demanded coalition talks on
the issue. Petr Drulak, head of the Prague-based Institute of
International Relations, says enforcing the decision on TOP 09 would
not be a good move.

First Czech movie using rotoscoping technique to premiere at Venice
film festival

Alois Nebel, the first Czech film that was produced with the
rotoscoping technique - a process that renders images shot with actors
in a unique black-and-white cartoon style - will be premiering at the
prestigious International Film Festival in Venice this weekend. The
movie, based on a cartoon novel by Jaroslav Rudis that has garnered a
cult following, is highly anticipated by Czech cinema lovers. Ahead of
its premiere abroad, I caught up with Alois Nebel producer Pavel Strnad
and asked him about the special technique it was made with, the film's
director and what category the movie will be shown in at the festival.

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